20 September 2009

Rave Review: Lunch Lady

Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute
Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

The Punk Farm author and illustrator has created a silly and highly appealing superhero for young graphic novel readers. Each volume starts with a crime, foiled by a masked (and rubber-gloved) crusader who is none other than our intrepid heroine. The first volume, which involves a plot to replace all the teachers at school with cyborgs so that the kids will elect one particular teacher Most Popular, introduces the central characters: Lunch Lady, who is serving justice and serving lunch; Betty, who is also a lunch lady and fills the role of Q, devising new gadgets for Lunch Lady in the bowels of the Boiler Room (which can be secretly accessed through an entrance hidden behind the refrigerator;) The Breakfast Bunch--Hector, Terrance, and Dee Dee--a study group-cum-band of buddies who discover Lunch Lady's double life and try to help her, although as the series is continuing their assistance is actively discouraged by Lunch Lady; and Milmoe, the school bully who continuously picks on the Breakfast Bunch, although Dee Dee stands up to him on a number of occasions, while her more timid friends try to avoid trouble at all costs.

The humor in the books is both textual and visual. Lunch Lady often uses types of food as exclamations ("Sweet Potatoes!") and phrases like, "I'm on him like cheese on macaroni!" Images of Lunch Lady sneaking about like a ninja or delivering high-flying kicks while swinging fish-stick nun chucks and hurling chicken nugget bombs, have high goof-appeal. Some of Lunch Lady's other cool gadgets include a Spatu-copter, a Lunch Tray Laptop, Taco-Vision Night Goggles, and a Bananarang. The only color used is a hue of rubber-glove yellow, which is sometimes used in the background, in the action lines, or to accent Lunch Lady's costume.

My only complaint with the books, and this is a clear indication of my bias and bruised ego, is the use of evil librarians in Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians. The plot revolves around a coalition between the school and public librarians to destroy all copies of a new video game which is due to be released. Their plans are discovered by both the Breakfast Bunch and Lunch Lady who work separately to foil the librarians (who, by the way, had some nifty high-tech of their own. They would counter any attacks with, of course, books, that could project laser images of central characters. Thus, the "Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" attack projected a laser Aslan.) The librarians are not just out of touch in terms of their attitudes towards video games, but they are grumpy and belligerent towards their patrons. Dee Dee, who is an avid reader, seams to be one despite the librarians. At the end of the book, when Lunch Lady sets up the sort of reading/gaming program available at many libraries today, and the principal asks her if she would like to be the new school librarian--well! That's just beyond the pale. Because anyone can be a librarian, right, MLS not withstanding. It's a shame that librarians, a group still subject to unflattering stereotypes, were not at all redeeming (one of them spat out, "I prefer media specialist" in a most uncivil manner.) Here's hoping that in future books, a more positive librarian makes an appearance as a replacement for this band of criminals.

But, as I said, that is my only complaint. This is a fun series that will appeal to reluctant readers and fans of graphic novels equally. I look forward to the further adventures of Lunch Lady.

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